Here Is One Place You Won’t Find Any Celebrities Today
It’s basically a black hole for hemp-loving celebrities: Sierra Blanca, Texas. The small town in the southwestern part of the state has made headlines for the drug busts of Willie Nelson, Fiona Apple, Armie Hammer and the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg. Nelly’s tour bus was also stopped in Sierra Blanca, though he was never charged with a crime.
Sierra Blanca became a major transportation hub in 1881 when the Texas & Pacific Railway met with the Southern Pacific Railway in Sierra Blanca to create the nation’s second transcontinental railroad. However, as the use of trains has lessened in the century since so has the population of Sierra Blanca. The 2010 Census lists Sierra Blanca’s population at just 553 people in just 172 households.
So how has a town of less than 600 people developed such a reputation for busting celebs with drugs? And what are these stars doing in Sierra Blanca?
Sierra Blanca sits right on I-10, a highway that stretches from Florida to California. The highway is an important route for tour buses and film crews traveling across the country, particularly through the southwest. This explains why stars like Apple, Hammer, Nelson and Dogg (sounds like a terrible law firm) would be in Sierra Blanca at all. Sierra Blanca is also only about 88 miles away from Cuidad Juárez, Mexico. Any car that crosses the border from Mexico would have to take I-10 leave El Paso. Which explains why…
There is a major border patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca. All cars traveling eastbound are stopped. The checkpoint’s main purpose is to catch anyone sneaking across the border, however Juárez’ reputation as a major hub for the Mexican drug trade explains where there are also so many drug dogs at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint.
“If there is marijuana in the middle of a can of jalapeños, the dog will smell both of them but ignore the jalapeños,” Border Patrol spokesman Bill Brooks has said. “These dogs are raised to work. They are excited to work. They never sit still; they can’t wait to find their next bust so they can be rewarded for it.”
And don’t bother flashing your fancy medical marijuana cards. “This isn’t California!” Rusty Fleming, public information officer for the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office, says. “Ninety percent of the people out here will try to flash their medical marijuana cards. Snoop flashed his real quick. But those don’t matter to us.”
In addition, don’t count on fellow celebrities to have sympathy. In another bizarre celebrity connection, Steven Seagal works as a reserve sheriff’s deputy in Sierra Blanca and works at the checkpoint several times a month.
So What Happens
Both Armie Hammer and Fiona Apple spent the night in jail following their arrests. Nelly was never arrested as a member of his entourage took the fall for the marijuana, heroin and guns found on his bus. At the time of Willie Nelson’s arrest, he had more than a quarter of a pound of marijuana, a felony. That was adjusted later, to make it a misdemeanor. Legend has it the prosecutor offered to drop the charges entirely if Nelson would sing a song in court; he paid a fine though.
There really isn’t a better way to get from southern California to southern states, without crossing through Sierra Blanca. Bus companies have, however, began to warn celebrities “to abandon all illicit items if they do happen to sneak some aboard.”